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Re: colorless green ideas

From:Philippe Caquant <herodote92@...>
Date:Thursday, April 8, 2004, 16:05
You snipped ! I actually wrote, "if you consider it
from a semantical point of view, it is completely
stupid, but if you have a poetical point of view, it
is really beautiful, maybe even deep."

I think this was used as a canonical example to show
how a sentence can be perfectly correct syntactically,
yet (normally) absurd semantically:
- if something is green, it cannot be colourless
- an idea cannot sleep, only living things can sleep
- "to sleep" and "furiously" seem to match very badly

This of course for normal, everyday meaning. Everybody
can understand it his own way and decide that
something can be both green and colourless if he likes
it so (especially a poet). But the fact is that, if
you give this sentence to an "intelligent" computer
program, it should NOT accept it without, at least,
asking for confirmation or further explanation. If the
program is purely syntactically-oriented, if will
accept it without any protestation. If it is
semantically-oriented, it will say, hey, wait a
minute, I have a problem here. So one sees very
clearly that one cannot make a linguistic program
which would use only syntactic rules (as some naively
thought at first).

I think, to accept such a sentence as "poetically
interesting", one should first master the usual
semantical rules of the language. Otherwise, you
cannot see what is interesting in it. Only if you know
the rules you can decide to break them.

--- Tristan McLeay <kesuari@...> wrote:
> --- Philippe Caquant <herodote92@...> wrote: > > I very much like that sentence: "Colourless green > > ideas sleep furiously". Could you please remember > me > > who proposed it first ? (Chomsky ?) > > > > I like it because, if you consider it from a > > semantical point of view, it is completely stupid, > > To me it has a very blatant meaning, though it needs > to be capitalised 'colorless Green ideas sleep > furiously'. It very obviously talks of dull/boring > Green (environmentalist/the Greens) ideas which > aren't > being acted on, but there's a good deal of activists > trying to change that with absolutely no chance of > success. Which is a relatively accurate discription. > (Sleeping furiously is perfectly normal and doesn't > strike me as odd in the least (anyone who's ever > been > sick should know that...); nor is ideas sleeping > odd; > nor are Green ideas. The hardest hurdle to cross is > 'colorless Green', and if we don't think the Greens > are particularly interesting, that is hardly even a > pebble on the already bumpy, pot-hold-filled road > that > is understanding language. > > -- > Tristan
===== Philippe Caquant "High thoughts must have high language." (Aristophanes, Frogs) __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! Finance Tax Center - File online. File on time.


Adam Walker <carrajena@...>